Congratulations! You published a book. It’s out there in the world, all new and shiny, bouncing like the newborn its constantly compared to. The hard part is over, right?
Um… well this is awkward.
Maybe you watch Amazon rank or your Bookscan data or if you’re lucky, get numbers from your publisher and you realize that books don’t sell themselves. That, even though your book is positively brilliant, it’s not flying off the shelves. Every week, you sell a bit less than the week before and you reach a bit more to the outer edges of your existing circles. Your grandmother’s hairdresser likes to read, right? RIGHT?
Marketing your book feels uncomfortable, like you’re the guy at the party with the bad toupee who traps people in a corner, spouting the benefits of a multi-level marketing product.
There are many ways to market a book, not all of them good. In fact, many of them are terrible. You can spam everyone you know on Facebook and Twitter with generic, impersonal messages that include links to your book on every available format. I don’t think you need me to tell you that your toupee is crooked.
But, there are some truly invaluable ways to market your book and although none of them are without effort, they won’t make you feel like you need a shower.
Reach out to other writers
This one is a bit of a *duh* moment. It’s why you’re reading this, and possibly commenting (hopefully commenting!). But take it a step further. Reaching out to strangers can feel awkward. I promise you, reaching out to writers when you are a writer is NEVER awkward. It took me a year to realize this. A YEAR! I’ve always been a book nerd: writers are my rock stars. When I published a book I thought, “who on earth would want to hear from me?” You know who? Anyone. Yes, literally any other writer. Writers love readers. We love other writers. If there is someone you admire, tell them. Find them on social media, share their Facebook posts, retweet their tweets on Twitter, friend them on Goodreads. Go to their book signings, tell them you’re a writer, too. Tell them why you like their work, how they inspired you. They won’t forget it.
Be Open. It’s hard. I’m an oldest child: overachiever, independent, I don’t need anyone, just ask my mother. It’s hard to be open. To say, 'I think you’re great' and 'Let’s be friends'. We’re not ten years old anymore, it’s hard to give admiration with abandon. Do it anyway.
This is the one that never goes away for me. Writers are everywhere. Connect with them, share their audiences and share yours with them as you grow. Never stop reaching up, out, and back. Other writers will be there to catch you when you stumble, but only if you let them.
This is true for book bloggers, too. Reach out, comment on their reviews. Follow your favorite authors around the internet and pay attention to their reviews. Book bloggers are really awesome, fun people who love to read and talk about books. They are our PEOPLE. Love them.
Get out the Elbow Grease
You know what book marketing is like? Building a house with nothing but toothpicks. There’s no one big brick. You get little boosts along the way, but mostly it’s a series of tiny actions (I think my metaphor is falling apart), that altogether add up to a steady stream of readers.
Try everything once: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, buying ads, price point fluctuation (if you can), sales, giveaways. You don’t have to do it all right away, your head will spin. Just pick something and dive in. When you have a handle on it, dive into something else. Do this enough times, and you’ll realize you have a platform!
It’s also fun to explore and figure out new things that attract readers and fans. I live for those moments: finding new readers who come back later and tell me they loved my work? Ahhh, it’s what I do this for!
I recently started up a newsletter. My blog is intermittently maintained and it’s mostly about my kids. I have an active Facebook page, and a growing Twitter following, but I struggle with conferences and signings because of my schedule. I’ve recently taken on Goodreads in earnest and am trying to get the zillions of books I’ve read recently reviewed. It doesn’t matter, it’s all toothpicks. Stack, stack, stack…
No matter what you take on at any time, know this: there is no one thing that sells books. Stop asking for it. Oh wait, there totally is. The New York Times list doesn’t hurt (but for most, is still short lived). A million dollar marketing budget would sell a helluva lotta books. Don’t have that? Hmmmm,… as I was saying: there’s no one thing that sells books.
More trope advice. No, really. Your own person is your brand. Be that person. On social media, at events, even when you think: everyone is more literary. Everyone here is smarter than me. Everyone here sells a lot more books than I do. Everyone here has better shoes because I just stepped in a puddle.
The thing is, people know when you’re putting on an act. They won’t like you as much. If you’re at an event and everyone is talking about their favorite books and you say Gatsby when really its Twilight, then you’re passing up the awesome opportunity for an instant connection with someone in that room whose favorite book is Breaking Dawn because Twilight was just too simplistic. And you can stumble through the themes of society and class in the 1920’s if you want, but everyone will see through it and you will bore them. If you love Twilight, just say you love Twilight. Newsflash: you’re not the only one. That book sold a billion copies,
Give your book away
Sigh. How many of you just cringed? I’m sorry. It’s true. Unless you’re the walking, talking personification of the adage Everyone has a book in them, you need to believe that your first book will not be the book that gets you a beach house. Yes, it happens. Maybe? Not to anyone I know.
Your first book is the book that introduces YOU, WRITER to the world. It shows readers who you are, gives them a taste of your voice. This is important, like a long term investment. I’m not saying offer your book, your hard work, free for the taking on your website. Rather, participate in group giveaways (or organize them!), offer to give copies away on other blogs, other writers' Facebook pages, hold contests to boost engagement. There will be times where you feel like you can’t even give your book away. Happily send it off to that one entrant, as though there were a thousand and never do anything but say, THANK YOU. Say thank you a million times. I think of my first book as an audition for my future readers. I’m happy to be here, I hope I earn a spot on your bookshelf.
The bottom line
Marketing your book is one long Sisyphean exercise. Don’t work for every sale. Instead, just be a person who loves to talk about books to other people. And some of those books you gab about are yours! And that’s more than okay, that’s wonderful. Stop asking if this action, right here, this giveaway or this ad or this event or this conference will sell books. It doesn’t matter. It’s all about how many different ways you can reach the same person. Connect with the same reader until eventually they think it’s just kismet.
I had a reader tell me that once: “I see your book everywhere, like I’m meant to buy it! It must be fate!”
Yep, totally fate. Exhausting, carefully engineered fate.
So what do you think? Are the above doable for you? Do you have any other tips for us?
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Kate Moretti is the New York Times Bestselling author of the women’s fiction novel, Thought I Knew You. Her second novel Binds That Tie was released in March 2014. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids, and a dog. She’s worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life.
She enjoys traveling and cooking, although with two kids, a day job, and writing, she doesn’t get to do those things as much as she’d like. Her lifelong dream is to buy an old house with a secret passageway.